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Home > Topics > EMS Management

Lawsuit: Medic claims she was fired for reporting partner was drunk

She says she told her bosses she thought he was intoxicated before he crashed an ambulance into another car; afterwards she was retaliated against and then fired

By Dana DiFilippo
Philadelphia Daily News

PHILADELPHIA — A paramedic has sued her former employer, who she claims canned her after she reported to city authorities that a colleague drove their ambulance while drunk.

Valerie Sakr, 35, of Devon, filed a whistleblower lawsuit Monday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court against EMStar Medical Transport, the company that fired her, and Keystone Quality Transport Co., the Springfield, Delaware County-based company that merged with EMStar this year.

Sakr, who began working for EMStar in April 2013, showed up for work one morning last November to find her partner, an emergency medical technician assigned to drive their ambulance, smelling of alcohol, according to the lawsuit. She told her bosses she believed he was intoxicated, but her supervisors told the duo to hit the road anyway, according to the lawsuit. Within minutes, the allegedly drunk ambulance driver nearly crashed into another car, according to the lawsuit.

Her supervisors eventually directed the pair to return to the office and ordered the driver to undergo a blood-alcohol test, which showed his blood alcohol level as 0.07 percent, according to the lawsuit. A driver is considered legally drunk in Pennsylvania at 0.08 percent. But Sakr contends in her lawsuit that her colleague's blood-alcohol test wasn't performed until four hours after she first alerted her bosses that he was drunk, giving him time to sober up.

Sakr reported the incident to the Philadelphia Department of Health three days later, according to the lawsuit. Afterward, she claims in her lawsuit, her bosses suggested she resign, gave her unfavorable shifts, denied her vacation request, assigned her outdated equipment and fired her in February as retaliation.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Steve Barr, president and CEO of Keystone Quality Transport, noted that Keystone and EMStar (two of Philadelphia's largest privately owned medical transport companies) didn't merge until February. "We don't retaliate against employees, so we've never had experience with this sort of thing," Barr said. He directed further questions to EMStar's New York-based owners Daniel Herman and Joseph Zupnik, who couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

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Storm Earthwindfire Storm Earthwindfire Wednesday, April 30, 2014 7:33:56 PM i believe if she felt he was impaired. the mangement failed to address her concern and seems they failed to address him at the begining of the shift. so they negleted the issue and he got into a accident. shouldnt any type of action like this been after the accident and not however long after, instead of waitin till you got blackballed? so u accepted this and did nothin till now?
Storm Earthwindfire Storm Earthwindfire Wednesday, April 30, 2014 7:53:06 PM oh my . it was 3 days later. thought it was 3 weeks later it was reported. whoops.
Mike Tragesser Mike Tragesser Thursday, May 01, 2014 4:05:01 AM If you get no satisfaction from reporting a drunk partner to your supervisor, go over their head. Call the Chief at home. Call the cops. No cooperation, call the police supervisor. Call the chaplain. Call the mayor. Call the press. Refuse to get in any vehicle with a drnk driver, on or off the job, and then do not get in the vehicle, ever, no matter what. Period.
Ed Hillenbrand Ed Hillenbrand Thursday, May 01, 2014 7:12:41 AM Yes she did. In this economy people will take the time to think things over before they go higher. It is now our nation's culture to retaliate against those who call out those in power. Look at Bill Clinton & John Boehner for 2 of the most glaring examples. Add to that the fact that most whistleblower laws are jokes so it is little wonder that she took a few hours to say 'enough is enough'.
David Newton David Newton Thursday, May 01, 2014 12:43:54 PM No, she did the right thing. The company needs to fix this. I would be very happy with an employee letting me know there was a problem. Is there something no being said?
Roland Blanchard Roland Blanchard Thursday, May 01, 2014 1:21:13 PM DOT standard for what would be considered a safety sensitive position is <0.02
Kim Wiggins Roper Kim Wiggins Roper Thursday, May 01, 2014 4:00:14 PM No one should be retaliated for reporting a suspicion or a fact. Ems is getting a bad name and especially private companies, who are notorious for this. She did what by law she is suppose to do, now let's see if we have a good system, let's see if they do what's right. Fire the drunk, or get the drunk some help.
Steve Childers Steve Childers Thursday, May 01, 2014 4:01:04 PM I would've refused to hit the streets with her driving.
James Bailey James Bailey Thursday, May 01, 2014 4:50:37 PM In our state there is zero tolerance for BAC while operating an emergency unit (FD, LEO, EMS). So the driver would be toast with any BAC.
Brian Phaneuf Brian Phaneuf Thursday, May 01, 2014 7:14:26 PM The email notification stated she was fired for reporting a drunk partner...the article states she claims that is why she was fired...a little misleading.
Jeanette Vlcek Jeanette Vlcek Friday, May 02, 2014 6:04:30 AM I've seen a lot of sleazey, unprofessional stuff and this is exactly why I didn't report it. It's not a level playing field out there.
Melinda Teaster Williams Melinda Teaster Williams Friday, May 02, 2014 6:38:16 AM Sounds Like a typical "GOOD-OLE-BOY" way of doing things. Very sad way to have handled this, sounds like this service needs new Management
Lisa Potter Williams Lisa Potter Williams Friday, May 02, 2014 6:53:52 AM Melinda Teaster Williams I know it's 2014, but the parts of this story that jumped out at me were , and I'm paraphrasing here, SHE reported HIM. Guess not a lot has changed in most places.
Melinda Teaster Williams Melinda Teaster Williams Friday, May 02, 2014 7:02:04 AM Lisa Potter Williams Nope still a MANS job even though women in EMS out number the men, and its really sad to see the amount of "Good-Ole-Boy" actions in EMS. one day that will change. Sad but a few years ago I reported an employee for taking narcotics in front of me, granded this employee had a script in their name, but really while working, go home. I was told I needed to tell the employee they were not allowed to DRIVE but could attend, I was so dumb founded, received a call and got chewed out for them driving and was treated to be writen up.
Jaime DeJesus Jaime DeJesus Saturday, May 03, 2014 4:21:49 AM You don't risk your life or the of your patients for any reason. Same on EMStar
George Yaworski George Yaworski Wednesday, May 07, 2014 9:24:35 AM It is strange the way some companies operate, for example, I am on days off, out having drinks with friends when dispatch calls me on my cell, we need you to do a peds transfer, I'm off car, we know the boss said call you, I have been drinking, that's ok we need you, I AM DRUNK, are you sure. This is what it is like and it is regrettable.

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